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Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition

Highlights from the blog and news feed
Apr. 14, 2014
Newsletter of the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, a nonpartisan alliance of groups and individuals dedicated to ensuring the transparency of state and local governments in Colorado by promoting freedom of the press, open courts and open access to government records and meetings.

Judge dismisses Arvada resident's lawsuit over City Council's use of secret ballots

A judge in Jefferson County has thrown out a citizen’s lawsuit against Arvada for using secret ballots to fill a vacant council seat, ruling that he lacks legal standing to sue the city for violating that aspect of Colorado’s Open Meetings Law.

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ICYMI: Watch CFOIC's Sunshine Week panel discussion on public records

CFOIC and KUSA-TV hosted a Sunshine Week panel for citizens and journalists on access to public records. Moderator Kyle Clark led panelists Melissa Blasius, Joel Dyer, Keli Rabon and Steve Zansberg through a lively discussion. Couldn't be there? Watch a video of the entire presentation on our blog.

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Lawmakers try again to add school board transparency

Two state lawmakers are trying again to give the public a bit more information about local school board discussions that take place behind closed doors.

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School finance bills contain provisions for spending transparency

A school-spending transparency measure is part of HB 14-1292, one of two public education finance bills that passed the House on voice votes.

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Sponsor of 2012 ban on secret ballots wants new legislation to clarify citizens' legal standing

The sponsor of a 2012 ban on the use of secret ballots by public bodies in Colorado wants to introduce a bill this session making it clear that any citizen has legal standing to challenge violations of the law.

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House rejects Senate amendments to CORA fees bill, appoints conference committee members

Update: The conference committee on HB 14-1193 voted 6-0 to remove a Senate third-reading amendment requiring that fees be equal for all requesters. Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, called the language “ambiguous.” Sen. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, said it could lead to unintended consequences.

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House panel passes bill to let state lawmakers hear public testimony from remote locations

For Colorado residents who live far from the state Capital, testifying on proposed legislation wouldn’t necessarily mean a long and sometimes perilous drive to Denver under a bill unanimously approved by a panel of state lawmakers.

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Editorial:  Outrageous ruling threatens open meetings protections

From The Gazette (Colorado Springs):  Transparent government is a Colorado virtue. Laws that mandate open records, meetings and process are about as controversial as mom and apple pie. That’s because government is chosen and funded by the people to serve the people, so almost nothing should be done in secrecy to exclude the people.

Yet, few Coloradans know their most fundamental expectations of open meetings are under attack.

Read more.

Hickenlooper's staff delayed records access for at-will hires story

From The Denver Post:  While touting transparency, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s staff delayed access to state appointment records and asked for hundreds of dollars to provide additional documentation of the people who moved from protected to at-will positions.

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Colorado takes big jump in transparency of government spending

From the CoPIRG Foundation:  Colorado took a big jump forward in the transparency of its government spending according to Following the Money 2014: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, the fifth annual report of its kind by the CoPIRG Foundation. After receiving a “D+” in 2013 and placing in the bottom ten states, Colorado jumped to a “B” and placed in the top 20 by implementing improvements like making over 19,000 public subsidies totaling $500 million accessible online.

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Editorial:  Let Coloradans testify from afar

From The Denver Post:  We are well past the moment when technology should be able to do for Coloradans who live hundreds of miles from the Capitol what they sometimes cannot do for themselves: find a way to testify on a bill.

Read more.

Transparency struggles persist at Thompson School District

From The Complete Colorado: Transparency still comes with a hefty price tag in Thompson School District.

Loveland resident and Liberty Watch co-founder Nancy Rumfelt filed a March 19 Colorado Open Records Act request for a little more than three months of school district emails including the names of school board members or the terms “reform” or “new school board majority.” She didn’t expect the request would bring a charge of $3,490.

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Analysis of Aurora's response to theater shooting won't be made public for now

From The Denver Post:  The city of Aurora this week could get a comprehensive outside analysis of how it responded to the Aurora theater shooting, but officials say they won’t make it public for now because that could violate a gag order in the case.

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Editorial: Colorado's open meetings law, over and out?

From The Denver Post:  If your local city council breaks Colorado’s open meetings law by conducting a secret vote to fill a vacancy, you could naturally go to court and seek to have the selection of the new council member overturned.

Couldn’t you?

Incredibly, a district judge in Jefferson County has said that’s not true. In a case involving the Arvada City Council, Judge Margie Enquist concluded that even a resident in the affected district had no standing to sue.

Read more.

Salida responds to possible Sunshine Law violations

From The Mountain Mail (Salida):  Salida city administration responded Monday to Salida attorney Jeff Auxier’s statements about possible Colorado Sunshine Law violations.

Auxier, who is in an ongoing legal battle with the city, recently suggested that Salida City Council violated the open meeting law by making a decision in an executive session Nov. 5.

Read more.

Editorial:  Poudre school district fails to recognize need to change email retention policy

From The Coloradoan (Fort Collins):  The Coloradoan met with Poudre School District officials Thursday regarding the district’s willingness to share public records, which it is mandated to do under state law as a publicly funded institution.

Its transparency in making emails available and its openness in communication with the community have been questioned, by the Coloradoan Editorial Board and others, in the wake of a case involving a family with a special needs student that requested emails pertaining to its son.

PSD indicated Thursday it made no changes to its record and email policies as a direct result of the Starr case.

It is the opinion of this board that Thursday’s response is unacceptable.

Read more.

Bell: Of open meetings and closed governments

From the Columbine Courier (South Jefferson County): Say what you will about Littleton resident Carol Brzeczek — just say it in public.

Brzeczek has been fighting the good fight for open government as a member of the “Sunshine Boys,” a grassroots organization which last fall spearheaded a successful citizen initiative that restricts the Littleton City Council’s ability to disappear behind closed doors to make public policy.

A former Littleton school board member, Brzeczek knows all about the tendency of government officials toward secrecy, and about the danger posed to democracy when our politicians drink this covert Kool-Aid.

Read more.

Public comment changes at Douglas County school board meetings

From the Highlands Ranch Herald:  The Douglas County Board of Education passed a resolution March 25 that sharply reduces time allotted for general public comment, but leaves discretion to the board president to allow more.

The proposal garnered objection from some community and board members during its first reading March 18, and a “no” vote from board member Meghann Silverthorn March 25.

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Caldwell: In Poudre School District, a lesson on how not to handle public records

From The Denver Post:  If you deal with government officials long enough, you come to recognize certain truisms.

They don’t like controversy. They don’t particularly want you to second-guess them. And they sometimes act as if the public records they create belong to them, not the taxpayers who finance their work.

A situation that began in 2010 and has unfolded in the Poudre School District over the last few years is all that and worse. Frankly, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Read more.

The Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition's efforts to protect the FOI rights of Coloradans rely on membership dues, grants and gifts. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation or becoming a member. Thank you!
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